Firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene to force vote to oust US House Speaker Johnson

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By David Morgan and Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a conservative firebrand, Wednesday on Wednesday called for a vote to oust Republican Mike Johnson as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a move that could embroil their party in chaos months before the November election.

The move is a rare open act of defiance of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has publicly backed Johnson as speaker and dismissed the ouster threat as "unfortunate."

"Mike Johnson is not capable of that job he has proven it over and over again," Greene told reporters on Wednesday, saying she would call for the vote next week.

In a statement, Johnson called Greene's threat misguided. “This motion is wrong for the Republican conference, wrong for the institution, and wrong for the country,” he said.

If Greene's "motion to vacate" were to succeed, the House would then have to select a new speaker for a second time since October, when hardliners ejected Johnson's predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, in what was then an unprecedented action in U.S. politics.

But before any of that could occur, the House will likely vote to end the effort.

Most House Republicans oppose the move, which raises questions about the party's ability to govern at a time when Trump is in a tight election race against Democratic President Joe Biden and House Republicans are struggling to retain their 217-212 majority.

On Tuesday, House Democratic leaders said they would help block Greene's move by voting to table, or set aside, her effort. They added that Greene's effort "will not succeed." It was unclear how many House Democrats would join their leaders in an unusual move to support a speaker from the opposition party.

“Why would you go through with this? Look, we didn't get elected to make excuses," said Representative Thomas Massie, who supports the move and joined Greene at a news conference. "We didn't get elected to say we shouldn't even try. We got elected to come here and give it our best and also to impose transparency."

Greene filed her motion in March after Johnson avoided two partial government shutdowns by moving spending legislation through the House with more support from Democrats than Republicans. She said she had not decided whether she would try again if the House blocked her vote.

She gained the backing of Massie and Representative Paul Gosar as the House considered and later passed legislation that supports U.S. ally Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, a bill that a majority of House Republicans voted against.

Greene's use of House rules to force a vote on Johnson came as a surprise to some Republicans, given Trump's opposition to the move and her own assurances that she would avoid the weeks of political paralysis that followed McCarthy's ouster.

(This story has been refiled to fix the typographical error in Marjorie Taylor Greene's surname in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)